21 vs 30 degree framing nailer [What degree nail gun is best for framing?]

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What is better 21 degree or 30 degree framing nailer? Go through this 21 vs 30 degree framing nailer comparison guide if you’re not sure

Whether you’re framing a house or building a fence or even fastening sheathing, you definitely require the right framing nailer to do a good job.

In this guide, we will take a deep dive into 2 of the most common framing nailers out there: 21 vs 30 degree framing nailer because we want to help you make the right choice.

Here is my promise: We will compare these two framing nailers so deeply that at the end of the article, you will nearly be an expert of these two nail guns.

21 vs 30 degree framing nailer: what degree nail gun is best for framing?

You guessed right: The most significant difference between these two framing nailers is the angle of nail collation.

I don’t want to lose you so allow me to explain what I mean by the angle of nail collation..

Now, the term simply means the angle at which a framing gun fires nails perfectly.

Here is perhaps what is even more important: The larger the angle, the easier it becomes to reach the tightest corners when you’re framing.

The different angles is, for the most part, indeed what makes each framing gun more suited to different types of projects.

There are a few other differences between 30 degree framing nailer vs 21 and we shall look at them briefly shortly.

But before we do that, I feel that there are things we should mention about each nail gun individually.

We shall start with the 21 degree framing nailer…

About the 21 degree framing nailer (20-22 angle range)

A 21 degree framing nailer typically drives a full-round head nail.

And the nails are normally held together by a plastic strip- it is this plastic strip that breaks apart when you fire a nail, making way for the nailer to load the next nail.

For that reason, you can expect small pieces of plastic to be flying about when you’re using this nailer so you will need protective glasses when on the job.

Let us turn our attention to the magazines..

With the 21-degree angle, the magazines hold between 60 and 70 nails- this is significantly less than what straight nailers hold.

But that is not all bad..this increased magazine angle gives the nailer a better/easier access to tight corners.


About the 30 degree framing nailer (30 to 34 degrees angle range)

Here you get a bigger angle range to play within during your framing work..and that’s very crucial.

In short, thanks to the bigger angle range, the 30 degree framing nailer will give you the best access even to the tightest corners and super small spaces.

Moving on, unlike the 21 degree framing nail gun, the 30 degree framing nail gun fire clipped-head nails.

Also keep in mind that the collation for this degree nail gun is paper strips- and they usually hold 40 to 55 nails, with some magazines designed to hold 2 strips for less reloading.

I should say that one big advantage of paper strips is that they’re easier to store not to mention that they leave less mess compared to plastic collations.

On the downside, they are prone to failure if you store or use them in moist places.

I bet that you now know enough (from the above explanation) to easily deduce the core differences between 21 and 30 degrees framing nailers.

Difference between 21 degree and 30 degree nailer

Let us break everything down precisely

21 vs 30 degree framing nailers – the main differences

As regards the nail head

21 degree framing nails generally fire nails with a full round head whereas a 30 degree nailer fires a nail with a clipped or offset head.


When it comes to firing power

Since the 21 degree nailer fires at a smaller collation angle, it tends to be more powerful than the 30 degree gun.

It follows that the 21 degree nailer is more ideal for stronger framings over the 30 degrees framing nail gun (this is more suitable for jobs like subfloor installation).


With respect to the Nail diameter

The 21 degree nail gun fires nails ranging from 0.113” to 0.148”.

In comparison, 30 degree framing nail gun fires 0.113” to 0.131” thick nails.

The most prominent reason for this is that the 21 degree nail gun is customarily more powerful than their 30-degree peers hence they drive in thicker nails more easily.


Regarding Collation type

As we previously saw, 21 degree guns use plastic collation nails while 30 degree framing nail guns use paper collations.

This makes the 21 degree guns the best choice if you’re working in humid areas like boiler rooms as humidity could dampen the paper collations, causing jamming or misfires in a 30-degree gun.


On the subject of Applications

I already mentioned this: Because of their greater power, 21 degree nail guns are better for heavy-duty purposes (think truss assembly when you’re framing roofs /any framing project where you need plenty of power).

In contrast, the 30 degree nailer is best for framing any tight corners (use the nailer too anywhere you won’t need excessive power like siding, decking, and some fencing).


Concerning Power source

Most 21 degree nailers are pneumatic- and this again contributes to their stronger firing power.

In fact, they very easily fire even fully rounded nails deep into the wood!

On the contrary, most 30 degree nail guns are cordless for the simple reason that they were originally intended to be used in tight spaces.


Which framing nailer should I buy [what degree framing nailer is best]?

Before making the final buying decision, you ought to consider the following points:

  • If you’re not sure about the local building code, go for the 21 degree nailer- Some states have strict codes that dictate even the nailers constructors should use in framing and some have completely outlawed 30 degree nailers.
  • Purchase the one with readily available nail collations at your local stores- note that you cannot use a 21 degree nail collation in a 30 degree nailer and vice versa. Did I tell that these days the 21° nails are the most common of the two?. They’re also the cheapest (in terms of cost).
  • If flying plastic collation holders are an issue or you do not want to spend extra on purchasing protective glasses, you will certainly want to go for the 30 degree framing nailer.
  • If you plan on working in humid areas like boiler rooms, just go for a 21 degree nailer as a 30 degree nailer is likely to easily fail. You must also not forget


Can I use 30 degree nails in a 21 degree nailer?

The short answer is No!

That’s because 30 degree nails have a paper strip whereas a 21 degree nailer works on plastic strips.

In addition, 30 degree nails have clipped nail heads so it is hard to use them on a 21 degree nailer (remember it shoots fully round nails).


Which is better 21 degree or 28 degree framing nailer?

The other framing nailer you may hear about is the 28-degree one.

Here is what you need to know about it vis-à-vis the 21 degree nailer…

Now, increasing the magazine angle from 21 to 28 degrees creates more space for maneuverability, particularly in tighter corners so from the plain eye, a 28 degree nailer is excellent for the tighter spots.

The problem is that it’s pretty difficult to design a drive mechanism that will have the power needed to drive nails with fully rounded heads at such a steep angle.

And that’s why for framing, the 21 degree nailer remains much better.

The truth is some states won’t even allow you to use a 28 gauge nailer for framing!


What degree nail gun is best for framing?

A 21 degree framing gun such as the NuMax 21 degree Pneumatic framing nailer can be amazing for your framing projects.

However, if you are in need of a nailer that will give you leeway to manoeuvre even the tightest spots, then you will want to purchase a nailer collated at 30 or more degrees such as the Milwaukee 30 degree framing nailer.

21 vs 30 degree framing nailer – 21 degree or 30 degree framing nail gun? In summary

Some areas have strict construction codes that restrict you to use the stronger 21 degree nailer for framing houses.

Therefore, before purchasing a framing nailer, you will want to research the local construction laws, just to make sure you do not violate the code.

I have already told you that several states  outlawed 30° because they shoot chipped head nails (By the way 30° nails are quite tough to pull out of wood because of the design).

You also recall that these nails are not easily available (in variety) and are more expensive.

In a word: If you are looking for a framing nailer that you can easily/readily find either zinc coated,  stainless, galvanized, spiraled, or even ribbed nails in dozens of lengths out there, then go for the 21°.

PS: Degree has nothing to do with the nailing angle. Instead, it relates to the angle between your magazine and the wood surface.



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